Fired Windsor officer files motion to dismiss Army officer’s lawsuit following traffic stop incident

National

In this image made from Windsor, (Va.) Police video, A police officer uses a spray agent on Caron Nazario on Dec. 20, 2020, in Windsor, Va. Nazario, a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, is suing two Virginia police officers over a traffic stop during which he says the officers drew their guns and pointed them at him as he was dressed in uniform. Caron Nazario says his constitutional rights were violated by the traffic stop in the town of Windsor in December. (Windsor Police via AP)

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A former police officer has filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a U.S. Army lieutenant following a traffic stop incident that resulted in the soldier being pepper-sprayed.

Joe Gutierrez, one of the two Town of Windsor (Va.) police officers involved in a traffic stop incident involving Army 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario, was fired back in April following the incident which occurred in December 2020.

According to an initial lawsuit filed by Nazario in federal court, Nazario was in uniform when he was stopped on Dec. 5.

Nazario is asking for at least $1 million in damages and for the court to rule that the two officers violated his rights, including rights under the Fourth Amendment.

He was stopped by officers Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker. Crocker said he initiated the stop because he couldn’t see Nazario’s SUV’s license plate, which was displayed inside a tinted back window at the time of the stop.

Nazario did not comply with the officers’ orders to get out of the car, saying he was scared. Gutierrez could be heard in body camera footage saying Nazario was “fixin’ to ride the lightning,” an expression associated with execution.

The incident escalated to the point Gutierrez used OC spray on Nazario several times while he was still sitting in the vehicle. Nazario eventually got out of his SUV after being sprayed in the face at close range, then Gutierrez used knee strikes to force him to the ground. At that time, the officers handcuffed him.

The situation began to deescalate as officers spoke with Nazario about the traffic stop and allowed EMS to render aid.

Following further investigation into the incident, a release from the town manager of Windsor stated that Officer Joe Gutierrez was terminated in early April.

On Friday, Gutierrez’s attorney filed a motion at the U.S. District Court Clerk in Norfolk to dismiss Nazario’s complaint.

Read the full motion here.

That same day, the NAACP asked Isle of Wight Commonwealth’s Attorney Georgette C. Phillips to recuse herself in the case.

“Since this incident, our local chapter has called for full accountability and transparency amongst
the Town of Windsor officials and the Windsor police department,” the NAACP said in a statement. “Instead we have seen the local government unapologetically stand by the actions of these officers, provide the citizens with incoherent answers and have used their powers to stifle the transparency process.”

The NAACP is also asking Gov. Ralph Northam to authorize Attorney General Mark Herring’s Office to review all evidence from the Virginia State Police investigation into the case, and make any and all legal decisions.

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